Most women go back to work between six months and more than a year, a survey by workingmums has found, while another survey shows many are looking for new jobs because their employers are not offering them the flexibility they need.
The back to work survey of 1,388 women found that 33% returned to work between six months and a year and another 33% went back after a year, with just 1% going back a few days after the birth, usually because they were running their own business or self employed, and another 1% returning two weeks after the birth. Ten per cent went back between two weeks and four months.
The survey followed the news that French politician Rachida Dati had decided to go back to work just five days after having a Caesarean.
Some commented that they would have gone back to work sooner if there was more flexible work available to allow them a better work life balance. One commented: “If employers were more flexible with part-time jobs I would be working and caring for my children, but because they are not, I chose to stay at home as my children benefit the first 4 years of their lives bonding with me.”
Another said that she had wanted to share care of her child with her partner, but while her employer had been flexible, her partner’s had not so he had decided to quit his job. “He ended up leaving his job so that he could be at home with our son while I went to work,” she said. “He did this for a year and it was absolutely fantastic, but very hard financially. Six years down the track and I have been a full time mum since the birth of our second child 4 years ago and my husband is working full time. He really feels like he is missing out on time with the kids and I feel like my career opportunities are fading fast. Equality of the sexes is still a long way off…”
Others commented that they had a hard time returning to work after extended periods away or doing part time work. One said: “I worked full time before the birth of my daughter, now 5. I found the job pretty stressful so didn’t go back there. I had my son 11 months later and went started part time evening work when my daughter was 21 months old and my son was 10 months old. Since then I have only been able to work part time during the evenings and it has put an enormous strain on my marriage. When the children started full time education in 2007 I applied for day jobs, but no one wants to know if you have children, you begin to feel like a second class citizen. Even when you know you can do the job and you have childcare arrangements in hand, they always come up with an excuse not to employ you. I think I’ll be working evenings for the next ten years at this rate. Twenty years of office experience is going to waste. Employers would rather give jobs to young people who can stagger into the office drunk the next morning than to a mature, experienced, organised woman.”
Another simply wrote: “Being a full-time mother IS a job. When will employers realise that if you can bring up children, run a house, cook meals, deal with the finances, entertain kids, educate them and have the laundry organised you can pretty much handle anything?????”
Looking for flexible work
Another survey carried out by workingmums in January found that 71% of people visiting the site were looking for new work intentionally as opposed to only 23% who had been made redundant.
The survey of 638 people found that many women were fed up with jobs where employers were not flexible and did not understand the pressures they faced balancing work and family life.
One woman said: “I felt my employer was putting more pressure on me as they were confident they had the upper hand in this market. This on top of other things made me decide to leave without another job to go to. They were very surprised!”
Another said: “My company pays lip service to wanting to support working mums. When push comes to shove they want 100% flexibility and commitment and school runs are an inconvenience!!!”
Several said they felt undervalued at work. One commented: “My employer have been flexible with my hours since I have returned from maternity leave on a part-time basis. However, my direct line manager makes me feel like a terrible inconvenience, and I no longer feel valued at work.”
Another said: “My daughter is ill again and as there is no-one else to care for her. I am taking more time off work. I am an outcast at work when I go back after time off whether it is sick leave or holiday – My boss berates me constantly for my ‘lack of commitment’. I sometimes don’t blame them as I would be fed up with an employee who had so much time off! I really hate it all and wish I didn’t have to work or is there a dream employer who is flexible and understanding???”
Several spoke of being made to feel an “outcast” because they couldn’t do extra hours and go to bars after work. One NHS worker said that while she worked part time and had taken a less high profile position after having children, her manager constantly pressured her to do longer hours. She said: “I’m sick of being undervalued, badly treated and abused. I like my job and the people I care for, but I think there is something elementally wrong with the caring profession who truly don’t care about the people they employ.”